John Newton's letters to Richard Johnson (+ misc.)

extracts chiefly from printed material, with some previously unpublished Newton to Wilberforce [sources]
[pre 13 May 1787] Newton to Johnson: Bonwick, ch 12
The travels and voyages of St. Paul will have peculiar weight, and you will feel comfort from them, which you never felt before... a change of climate and of diet will try your constitution, and you will be upon your guard. Nothing can hurt you while the Lord is with you.
If Jesus should honour you with the crown of martyrdom, it will not be strange. He did the same for Paul and Peter before you were born. But it will be madness in you to risk your health, by going down into the hold of a ship, where the air must be always putrid from the breath of a crowd of passengers in chains. If they are sick, and want you, let them be brought up on the deck. It will be equal folly to venture your life among the savage natives on shore, before their confidence is obtained by the mutual good offices of others. Remember, your business is religion, mind that, and that only. Be careful of your health. Be careful of your life. Be careful of your conversation.
13 May 1788 Newton to Johnson, on the anniversary of the departure of the First Fleet: Bonwick, ch 12
When you land there may you, like Noah, when he left the Ark, meet a special blessing from on high to welcome you on shore. Saturday at nine in the evening is about eight on Sunday morning at Botany Bay, so that your Sunday is closing when mine begins.
I consider you in a much higher and more important view than merely a friend of mine, or than any of my brethren in the ministry at home. If the Lord bestows upon you, and maintains in you, the true spirit of a missionary, I conceive of you as the greatest and most honoured minister in our Established Church, as much superior to an archbishop as Teneriffe is more elevated than Highgate Hill. My heart hopes that you will carry with you a spark, from which, in God’s due time, light may proceed to enlighten the whole Southern Hemisphere.
I thought you accepted your commission at first, and then I judged you were the fittest person I knew for an undertaking in which your scholarship, and what the world calls shining abilities, would be of much less consideration than faith, patience, humility, and a disinterested love of souls. Afterwards, I could not but apprehend the hurry in which you lived during your long stay in London, the new scenes into which you were suddenly introduced, and other circumstances, abated in some measure what I call the missionary spirit in you, and directed your attention to things more likely to hinder than bless you. I trusted that the Lord would bring you again to the one great point before you reached Botany Bay. Yet I had my fears, which were rather confirmed by your long stay at Lymington, and your reluctance to leave that place when your duty undoubtedly required your attendance upon the ships at Portsmouth as soon as possible.
Your success and influence will not depend much upon the manner in which you express yourself, as upon the general impression which your character makes upon the people you are with. If Captain Phillip, the officers, seamen and convicts conceive of you as devoted to God, firm in His cause, meek, humble and compliant in all cases where conscience is not concerned, and at the same time as standing upon higher ground than to be influenced by the fear of man, or of any danger or hardship to which duty may expose you, this will give a weight to what you say. But I believe you will have sharp trials, and be at times, like the sailors in a storm, almost at your wits end.
But however justly Captain Phillip may be disgusted with hypocrisy, I trust you will be able to fix in his mind a conviction that, however others may do, you are yourself an upright man; and this persuasion, as I have before hinted, will stand you in more stead than many arguments. I hope what has happened will not so confine you to moral subjects, as to tempt you to suppress the grand peculiarities of the gospel. I am conscious of a manner of preaching, which I hope the Lord will lead you into, that is a medium between a dry detail of doctrines and a dry enforcement of moral duties.
I hope I may now consider you as safely arrived, and beginning to take root in the new and distant world. A land destitute not only of towns and villages, but even of a house. Neither fields nor roads, neither labourers nor travellers, no steeples towering above the trees, nor cheerful sound of church bells, but all dreary and silent about you. Who can tell what an alteration you may live to see? And what greater alterations may take place in the course of another century? What design Government may have in forming your settlement I know not. I approve the extension of our commerce, but I trust the Lord designs to make this place subservient to His gracious design of spreading the light of His glorious gospel.
I hope you will take care how you ramble in the woods, lest you should be surprised by the natives and carried off. Were I even to hear that this happened, I should not be wholly disconcerted. I would not hastily conclude that they had been permitted to eat you for breakfast. I would endeavour still to comfort myself with the possibility that, though I may not live to hear it, an account may some years arrive to the following purpose: - ‘The Mr and Mrs Johnson (for in such a case I would have her with you), who were carried inland by the natives and whom we long thought dead, are still living. The savages spared them. By degrees he learned their language, and has preached to them the glad tidings of salvation by Jesus, with such effect, that numbers of them are converted to the faith, and brought into a state of harmony and civilization.’ Would not such a paragraph look pretty in a future newspaper?
Your affectionate friend and brother,
John Newton
26 January 1788
First Fleet land on Australian soil in Port Jackson
Sydney cove RJ
'An account that
the convicts have arrived safe, and that Mr Johnson is well
and endeavours to do what he can for the benefit of the poor convicts,
though not with the success one might wish for, gave pleasure to the Society.'
Moravian Mins
30 Mar 1789
Moravian Minutes of the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel
5 July  [August?]  1788 Newton to William Wilberforce: Bodleian
I rejoice to find that the accounts transmitted of Mr Johnson, will leave no room for objections to the choice you made of him.
27 April 1789 Newton’s Eclectic Society notes
Eclectic 1789 Apr 27 RJ journa
Reading Johnson’s journal
24 June 1789 Newton to Johnson: Bonwick, ch 26
No ship has yet sailed for New Holland since you left us... The child [the Johnsons’ first child, a stillborn boy] is taken out of an evil world, and you will sorrow for it but once. You know not how often you might have sorrowed for it if it had lived.
28th November 1789 Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, Appendix A, p 432; Bonwick, ch 26
I rejoiced that your application for an assistant succeeded so happily, and that the Lord provided and disposed Mr Crowther [1] for that service. I judge, both from what Mr Milner told me of him and from what I had opportunity of knowing of him myself, that he will prove a true helpmeet, a counsellor, and a friend. Many a time I try to realise to myself your first interview, and what a mutual pleasure you will both have in meeting together with one heart and mind… The seed you sow in the Settlement may be sown for future generations, and be transplanted in time far and near. I please myself with the hope that Port Jackson may be the spot from whence the Gospel light may hereafter spread in all directions, and multitudes may rejoice in it who are at present covered with a thick darkness.
27 May 1790 Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, Appendix A, p 438
I think no one minister is so often in my thoughts as yourself
We heard from Mr Crowther of his safe arrival at the Cape of Good Hope in December, and I pleased myself with the thought of his reaching you about February, and of the high satisfaction with which you would receive a fellow-labourer who seemed peculiarly selected by the Lord as a fit person to assist and comfort you. But God moves in a mysterious way. [2] By the next intelligence you receive from home you will be informed at large of the event. That the Guardian, about ten days after she left the Cape, ran in a fog upon a rock of ice, and was presently full of water. Of the four boats which left her apparently sinking, that in which Crowther and fourteen men returning to the Cape was, it is to be feared, the only one that escaped. Letters came from Crowther the 23rd April, in the afternoon, and the very next morning he knocked at my door himself, so that he had nearly startled us by his arrival before we had the least intimation of what had happened. The news he brought was universally felt; but four days after we were as much surprized by letters from Capt Riou, [pix NSW] informing us that the Guardian, with the people who had remained on board, were likewise safe in Table Bay. [3] This unexpected news greatly abated the general consternation, and wiped the tears from many a mourning eye. But it has not much abated my particular feelings for you. Your disappointment must be very great. But, as I said, the Lord, whom you serve, can make up for all.
I think no one minister is so often in my thoughts as yourself. I hope the Lord will give you encouragement to stay in your post; and if he does, I trust you will not indulge a dream of leaving it.
27 August 1790 Newton to Johnson: Bonwick, ch 26
A distance of 20,000 miles, more or less, is but a trifle to those who, by being joined to the Lord, are of one spirit and one body. You are no more alone at Port Jackson, though separated from ordinances and Christian Society, than Adam was in Paradise, when he was the only human being on the earth.
I seldom sit down to dinner, but I compare our good cheer with the hard fare which is probably your allotment.
9 November 1790 Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, Appendix A, p 443
I fear your colony must be in a tried, suffering state, and that you have a feeling share in the common calamity.
Crowther arrived at my house the next morning after we received the news; his escape in the launch was wonderful. He is at present in good health, but he has given up the thought of attempting to return to you again. He is an upright, good man, but does not seem to possess that firmness of spirit which, in my view, is essential to a missionary, and without which no man in his senses and with his eyes open would venture upon a voyage to Botany Bay. This spirit I judged you had when you accepted the service. I found you had lost something of it before you left England, but I seemed satisfied by your journals that the Lord had revived it in you by the time of your arrival in New Holland.
10 March 1791 [Bonwick: 10 Nov 1791] Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, Appendix A, p 445; Bonwick ch 26
your labour will not be lost...
You are, I trust, planting for the next Century
...will one day spring up and flourish
...and spread among the islands and nations in the Southern Ocean
I thought your last letters to Mr Foster and Mr Thornton [4] brought good news; for though your account of the state of things around you was very affecting, and awakened my sympathy and pity, yet I was comforted by observing the state of your mind, that neither the discouragements you had met with, the hardships you then endured, nor the probability that your sufferings might still be increased, had led you to drop one expression of regret for leaving home, nor to wish yourself back again. [5]
As to temporals – though if your Colonists could have behaved to me, as they have behaved to the Lord, I might, probably, very coolly leave them to perish for want of food. It is well for them, though they are not duly aware of it, that you are with them to pray for them. I trust for your sake, He will give you the lives of those that are with you. Perhaps their sufferings may be designed to bring their haughty spirits down and make them more attentive to your message.
I have not been disheartened by your apparent want of success. I have been told that skilful gardeners will undertake to sow and raise a salad for dinner in the short time while the meat is roasting. But no gardener can raise oaks with such expedition. You are sent to New Holland, not to sow salad seeds, but to plant acorns; and your labour will not be lost, though the first appearances may be very small, and the progress very slow. You are, I trust, planting for the next Century. I have a good hope that your oaks will one day spring up and flourish, and produce other acorns, which, in due time, will take root, and spread among the islands and nations in the Southern Ocean.
Endeavours have not been wanting to send you a companion by the ships now going out. What the event will be I know not. The door seems open, but you live in such an awkward, unpromising corner of the Lord's great house that it is not easy to find a competent person willing to go to you. It is not a service for mere flesh and blood to undertake. A man without that Apostolic spirit and peculiar call which the Lord alone can give would hardly be able to maintain his ground. Mr Crowther, though a sincere, humble, good man, seems not to have had those qualifications, and therefore he has been partly intimidated by what he met with abroad, and partly influenced by nearer personal considerations at home, to stay with us and sleep in a whole skin.
9 May 1791 Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, Appendix A, p 447
I do not wonder that they who had no faith or trust in the Lord should be either impatient or desponding, considering what they felt, and what they might have some reason to fear; but the Governor's letters to Government, extracts of which were published in the newspapers, seemed more favourable. I cannot but hope and believe that the Lord sent you necessary supplies before you were reduced to extremities, and before help could arrive from England. More convicts and more stores are now upon the way to you, and I hope effectual measures are taken to preserve you from the fear of want in future.
Had the power been in my hand, I would have taken care to give the Governor a deep impression, not only in favour of you, but of the Gospel which you preach. I would have united all the officers in your favour. I would have made you very acceptable and very useful to the soldiers, the sailors, and the convicts. By this time, very long before, I would have so established your character that every person should look up to you with affectionate reverence. All this, and more, the Lord could easily have done, though' I could not. Yet, I apprehend, He has not done it. Possibly you are still slighted, still opposed, still tempted to think in a dark hour that you labour and spend your strength in vain. What then is the inference we are to draw? Surely that the Lord is wiser than we; that His plan is more extensive than ours; that His work is more clearly seen and more effectually promoted by overruling difficulties than by removing them. Though you long for success, you are not responsible for the want of it, if to the best of your judgment and ability you have been faithful. Give my love to Mrs Johnson and your little girl. [6]

Milbah Maria
Richard & Elizabeth Johnson's daughter
[Milbah is an Aboriginal name]
21 January 1792 Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, Appendix A, p 462 – omitted in Index; Bonwick, ch 26
To the Most Reverend the Primate and Patriarch of the Southern Hemisphere
You surprise me by saying I am many letters in your debt. From you I have received but one letter since your arrival at New Holland—this last per Neptune, dated 11th August, 1790.
I learn from other quarters—from people whose indifference to religion makes them more unsuspecting witnesses—that many of those about you who affect to under-value you are yet constrained to reverence you in their hearts.
Possibly you are still slighted, still opposed, still tempted to think in a dark hour that you labour and spend your strength in vain. Though you long for success, you are not responsible for the want of it, if to the best of your judgment and ability you have been faithful. God is establishing your character. In the few who attend at your cabbage-tree hut or house, [7] I see, or hope I see, the seeds of something good, which will ere long spring up. I hope to hear that you find a need for enlarging your borders, and that a time will come when you will have some such hearers among your public auditory as you wish for, who will help you to preach by their very looks. [8]
I do not pity you much for living in a hut,
you may be as happy there as if you had Lambeth Palace,
and could dine every day upon plate.
I was sorry Mr Crowther could not reach you. Mr Crowther is a good man, but the Lord had not given him the full spirit of a missionary; he was therefore partly disheartened by what he had met with abroad, and partly detained by something at home. Nor have we yet been able to find a person in the ministry of faith and zeal sufficient to go over to your assistance.
9 July 1792 Newton to Wilberforce: Bodleian
Glad should I be were I able to point out to you a proper person for New South Wales. The inquiry has been long and constantly upon my mind, but hitherto in vain:—
Dwells then in England charity so dear? [9]
The zeal and self-denial necessary for this undertaking must be of a higher cast than ordinary,—-must come from above; especially now the difficulties of Johnson's situation are generally known. [2] But the Lord who has given Johnson the missionary spirit, can stir up the hearts of others to succeed him.
19 July 1792 Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, Appendix A, p 473
I thank you for yours by Mr Dawes. [10] I should have prepared an answer to it sooner had I been in town, but I was abroad when he arrived, and till very lately. He drank tea with me on Saturday last, and breakfasted yesterday morning, and I shall hardly see him again till he returns from Africa. I believe he will set off in a day or two from Plymouth to embark for Sierra Leone.
He tells me he has not given up his design of revisiting New Holland, but that he could not possibly go back yet. However, I think if things go well at Sierra Leone your attraction must be very strong to draw him from it.
We are inquiring and praying that the Lord would incline some suitable person to follow and assist you, but as yet no one appears to have zeal and self-denial equal to the service. I pity you, but not greatly. The Lord is with you, and you have eminently the post of honour. I should shrink, if not sink, under your difficulties; but you are upheld through them, and come off in almost every fight a conqueror. Why then should I pity you? Your cause is good; you serve the best master. He will accept your intention at all events, for He does not make you responsible for the success. I will reserve my pity for those who live at ease. I have more reason to pity myself. To you I ought to write in terms of congratulation.
Now, like Lot, you are grieved with the madness and wickedness of the ungodly. [11] But you did not, like him, place yourself among them for the sake of a well-watered country. [12] A regard to the glory of God, and a desire to be useful to the souls of men, sent you and keep you where you are.
All unite in love to Mrs Johnson, and to little Miss Milbah. We should like to see her, but as you live so far off, we are content to take it upon your word that she is the finest child in New Holland
4 August 1792 Newton to Wilberforce: Bodleian
poor Johnson
I long
Mr Caldwell [13] desired me, when opportunity should offer, to present his best respects, and to inform you, that he has received two testimonials of his character etc, signed by three clergymen, of or near Sleaford, if there should be occasion for them…  And I believe he would not be unwilling to go to New Holland. [14].  Poor Johnson! The Lord mercifully holds him up, but I long for him to have a friend and a fellow labourer to assist or comfort him.  Perhaps he is at this moment pleasing himself with the hope of Mr Dawes’ [15] return.

When I think of the trials to which those are exposed who willingly offer themselves to serve the Lord among the heathens; and when I think of some at home, whose situation and calls to public service, require, though in a different way, almost equal zeal and self denial; I shrink into a button, and feel my own comparative insignificance.  But I am often cheered by that thought of Milton, 
They also serve, who only stand and wait __ [16]

I hope I am, where I ought to be.  And if I am not called to do great things, it is a mercy and an honour to do any thing, in such a cause.  It is this alone, I hope, that makes life valuable to me now.
29 January 1793 Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, p 5; Bonwick ch 26
I believe what you have heard of your name being treated with ridicule here was either quite unfounded or much exaggerated; but, be it true or false, more or less, I thought it would be acting below yourself to take notice of it. Your character is too well established to be in the least affected by such trifles; and, as a minister and a Christian, you will do well to pass by them with silence. The fable says that on a fine night, a parcel of dogs thought proper to bark and howl violently at the moon; but the moon, well satisfied that they could not hurt her, replied with great composure, ‘you may make what noise you please, but I am determined that I will shine on.’ I think the moral is obvious and good.
Address For a similar reason I suppressed two or three passages in your Address, [17] which seemed to intimate that you felt yourself personally hurt by wickedness you had met with. I wish you invulnerable and insensible to all that concerns yourself, while you are feelingly alive, as indeed you are, to all that relates to the glory of God and the welfare of souls. I have made little other use of the liberty you allowed me to expunge or alter as I pleased, excepting now and then by omitting repetitions, or drawing your thoughts into a closer compass. But I hope you will not find that I have added a single sentiment of my own.
I trust your Address will operate as an effectual witness in our favour. There are, likewise, multitudes here, like-minded with the poorest creatures in your colony, and therefore your Address is equally suited to them—perhaps more so than anything we can say; for there are some touches in your book which I think no man could touch or hit off well without taking a trip to Botany Bay. Experientia docet.
24th May 1793        Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, p 5; Bonwick, ch 26
You are sent to lay the foundation upon which others will build...
opening a plan, which He, in His due time, will accomplish
I sent your last acceptable letter (with the copy of yours to the Governor) to Mr Wilberforce, as you desired. I am just informed that Governor Phillip is arrived. I hope his successor will treat you better than he did. [18]
The Lord has, at length, provided you an associate, Mr Marsden, who, I hope, will deliver you this. [19] May he be saved from islands of ice and every other danger. We like him well here, and I have little doubt but you will find him a friend and helper. But perhaps you will not be much or long together. I suppose one of you will be stationed at Norfolk Island. You will have the honour of being the first Apostle to the South Seas, but I think you will have no objection that others should be sent to take a share in your labours. Indeed, a voyage to New Holland and the account of your situation there are so formidable that it is not easy to find any who have zeal enough to follow you. But He who has sent two, can, when He pleases, send twenty.
You are sent to lay the foundation upon which others will build; and it will be more clearly seen by posterity than at present that the Lord directed you by His counsel, and upheld you by His arm of power—that He appointed you to the honour of opening a plan, which He, in His due time, will accomplish. This is a greater honour than if you had been made a Bishop, or Archbishop, or Cardinal, or Pope.
You have been slighted or despised by those who ought to have assisted and encouraged you. But you have not fainted; you have kept His word, have not denied His name, nor been ashamed of Him.
June 17—Since writing the above, I have received your letter and papers by the Atlantic, and have shown [them] to Mr Foster. We both approve of the address. I hope to send it you in print by the next ship. I think some of them may sell here, but scarcely sufficient to pay printing. But we can manage here for the expense; I should be sorry to put you to any. I am not yet so clear about the sermon, and of, consequently, the letter to the Archbishop. If I was sure a mutilated copy had not been sent to him, I should keep it back. But perhaps I should refer them both to Mr Wilberforce. Your speech to your brother-justices I highly approve. [20] The Lord is and will be with you, and therefore none that fight against you can prevail. You are sowing in tears, but you shall reap in joy.
9 November 1793 Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, p 79
I received your address to your diocese, with the duplicate of it, by the ship from China. I communicated what you sent to Messrs. Martin and Foster. We all agreed that it would be best not to deliver the sermon and letter to the Archbishop, as it seemed improbable that a copy of the sermon had been sent to him, and if not, it was not necessary that he should see it.
I was at Southampton when the address came. [21] After my return, we consulted about the publication. I hope to begin transcribing it for the press next week, which I thought would be in time, as Mr Martin [22] believed there would be no ships go till the spring; but we are now suddenly told there are some will sail very soon. I shall do my part by writing out the address, and shall then commit the business to Mr Martin.
I rejoice that your spirits are keeping up in your trying situation. You feel that you are where you ought to be, and He who sent you thither will support you.
I hope Mr Marsden will be with you soon. How glad you will be to see a fellow-labourer! Mr Crowther is a good man, but he whom the Lord now sends you seems more likely to be a comfortable assistant.

Samuel Marsden
fellow missionary with Johnson from Magdalene College Cambridge
Johnson Brown Marsden
29 March 1794 Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, p 195
I have received your letter dated May 7th, and I have read your journal with the feelings of a friend. Your trials have been great, and of course your supports have been great likewise, or you could not have stood your ground. But I trust the difficulties and hardships, which at times have made you think of returning to England, will soon be much mitigated, if not wholly removed. From the general character of Captain Hunter, the newly-appointed Governor, [23] I expect you will soon find countenance and encouragement where you have hitherto met with little but neglect and ill-treatment, so that I hope you will yet live to see happy fruits of your labours.
As a friend, I will offer you two or three thoughts which occurred to me while I was reading your journal.
I do not wonder, nor can I blame you, that you often felt cares and anxieties respecting your temporal concerns. If we are in the path of duty, and in the use of proper means, such cares are indeed needless, because the Lord careth for us. But when you speak of time spent in your necessary employment as so much lost time, because it kept you from your books and studies, I think you distressed yourself without just cause. I wish you to consider your mission, as a whole, composed of various parts, each of which, in its proper place, has its importance. Preaching, reading, and study, etc, are of the first consideration; but if necessity required you to work with your own hands, to procure necessary sustenance for your family, this was a part of your calling likewise. I believe the Apostle was employed no less lawfully and properly when gathering sticks for the fire—Acts 28:3 [24]—than when preaching the Gospel. You understand the Gospel too well to confine religion to devotional exercises. The secret of the Lord teaches us, whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, to do all to His glory. I judge that when you dig in your garden, or plant potatoes or cabbages, you serve the Lord as truly as when you are upon your knees, or in the pulpit, provided you do these things in a right spirit, in dependence upon Him and in submission to His will. Such employments are cross to our inclinations, but if we take them up as a Cross, and can cheerfully deny our own will, they become (when necessary) a part of the obedience we owe Him.
Nor do I blame you for being greatly concerned for the sins and enormities which you are daily witness to, and especially for the gross profanation of the Sabbath. I think you should be content with praying for them, and with bearing your faithful testimony against their evil, and not greatly distress yourself because you cannot effect impossibilities.
You often speak of preaching awfully [arousing fearsome awe]. Undoubtedly, a declaration of the law and the penalty due to transgressors is a part of our message. To persons in this state, denunciations of wrath too frequently repeated, instead of working savingly upon them, rather tends to increase the enmity of their minds against God.
You have been certainly not treated with the respect and decency due to your character as a minister of the Church of England, [25] and the chaplain of the colony; but you seem sometimes to have felt more on this account than I would wish you. I wish you to account such disgrace as (when undeserved) your glory.
4 December 1794   [Bonwick '14th'] Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, p 273; Bonwick, ch 26
Ii is the hope and belief of all your friends that the arrival of Capt Hunter at Port Jackson will put an end to most of the hard treatment and difficulties you have hitherto met with in the discharge of your ministry. The new Governor has expressed his friendly regard to you so strongly and frequently, and his determination to support and countenance you by his authority, that perhaps it might be more seasonable to caution you against the dangers of prosperity than to console you on what you have already suffered.
Mr Foster and Mr Serle [26], whom I consulted, agree with me that things being now in a prosperous train, it is better to keep your letter to the Archbishop, and not give him any trouble about this business.
Most of the opposition and unkindness you have met with has not been against you personally, but it came upon you for the Gospel's sake; and therefore, instead of laying it much to heart, you are warranted to rejoice and be exceeding glad. Could you always have considered it in this light, your burden would have sat upon you more easily. You have no reason to expect to be treated like a chaplain or a gentleman, while you would not conduct yourself as other chaplains and gentlemen usually do. If you had conformed to their manners and practices, they would not have respected you more in their hearts, but they might have been more civil.
24 May 1795 Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v2, p 298
I hope this will find you sheltered under the wing and protection of Capt Hunter. Hitherto you have suffered much, and met with many discouragements.
There was little reason to suppose that many of the convicts would be very willing either to attend your preaching or regard your advice, unless the Holy Spirit touched their hearts, especially as the countenance and example of their superiors were against you. You burdened yourself too much on account of what you could not possibly help.
I think you likewise laid too much stress upon your office as chaplain, and the right you had from thence to be considered and treated as a gentleman. [27] If you could have been unfaithful, connived at sin, and given it the sanction of your presence and example, I doubt not but they would have treated you very genteely. But the opposition and contempt you met with were for the Gospel's sake.
21 July 1796 Newton to Wilberforce: Bodleian
Though you have not fully succeeded in your persevering endeavours to abolish the Slave Trade as yet, the business is still in train, and since you took it in hand the condition of the slaves, already in our Islands, has been undoubtedly meliorated. I believe likewise it is wholly owing to you that Johnson and Marsden are now in New Holland, and I trust that notwithstanding all discouragements, the seed sown and sowing there, will yet spring up to the glory of God, and the good of souls.  And to have been, even remotely, the instrument of saving one soul, is a blessing and an honour...  These instances…are proofs that you have not laboured in vain.
27 August 1796 Newton to Johnson: HRNSW, v3, p 90
I had for some time been anxious to hear of the new Governor's arrival, and therefore I rejoiced at the news, especially to know that he heartily gives you his countenance and support. You have indeed long had a trying post, but the Lord has upheld you and taught you to profit by it. And now I hope and trust your latter's will be your best days.
bust of Governor John Hunter in his hometown of Leith, Edinburgh
The Governor's stated attendance at church in the forenoon, and his suppressing needless labour on the Lord's Day, will, I trust, have a visible good effect. They are indeed great things, and, as you say, as much as you can have expected.
As your outward situation becomes more comfortable, the enemy will probably change his ground and mode of attack. If the Lord preserves you in the spirit of humble dependence upon Himself, you need not greatly fear what either men or devils can do against you.
I believe you need not trouble yourself about Major G. [28] I do not think he has done, or can do, you any harm; and probably, though you have reason to remember him, he may by this time in a manner have forgotten you. You take the best method of relieving your own mind from the remembrance of his injurious treatment, and the best method of retaliation, by praying for him.
Your letter to Mr Stokes [29] gave a pleasing account of your garden and farm.[pix mss Fricker text]  Methinks I see you, like Abraham and Isaac, whom the Lord blessed. You have flocks, if not herds, chickens, and pigs, and ducks, and, I suppose, men servants and women servants.
1 April 1800 Newton to Johnson: Bonwick ch 26
You have dropped me of late years, and therefore, I make the less apology for dropping you. I seldom attempt more than to answer letters, and even this is more than I can do. At the age of 75, and with increasing engagements, I cannot write much. Give our love to Mrs Johnson, Milbah, Ambrose, and the rest, if the Lord has given you more – and to Mr and Mrs Marsden, if I have not time to write to him. May the Lord bless you all, you and your children. And may the good seed you are sowing, spring up to flourish for ages. Notwithstanding the discouragements you have met with, I am persuaded the Lord has not sent you so far to labour in vain.

1 John Crowther (1760-1832) was ordained deacon and priest by Bishop Beliby Porteus in June 1789. Following the shipwreck of the Guardian en route to Australia, he returned to England from Cape Town, later being appointed assistant curate at Rawdon in 1792 and perpetual curate of Hayfield, Derbyshire, in 1805, where he was CMS Treasurer. See also Staffordshire Record Office: Papers of the Legge Family, Earls of Dartmouth, FILE - ref. DW1778/V/952 - date: 1789 John Crowther to Lord Dartmouth on voyage and wreck of the "Guardian", and the subsequent journey in boats.
2 Job 37: 5 God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend. Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. Cowper’s hymn God moves in a mysterious way was written on the eve of his relapse into severe depression. It came to him while walking alone in the fields and incorporates the essence of John 13:7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. When in the early hours of 2 January 1773 Newton was summonsed to Cowper’s home to prevent him committing suicide, he later returned home to exclaim in his diary, drawing on Cowper’s prophetic hymn: ‘How mysterious are the ways of the Lord!’
3 Lieut Edward Riou – Captain Edward Riou – (1762-1801), third son of a Guards officer, was a midshipman in the Discovery and in the Resolution on Cook's last voyage (1776-80). He was commander of the Guardian which left England in 1789 for Botany Bay link to Riou’s logbook link and Narrative of the wreck of the Guardian link (digitised by State Library New South Wales)
4 Henry Foster (1745-1844), assistant to William Romaine, held several lectureships in London, including St Ann’s (St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe), St Antholin’s, St Swithin’s, St Peter’s Cornhill, Christ Church Spitalfields and Long Acre Chapel. In 1807 he was licensed as perpetual curate of St James, Clerkenwell. In his early years, he had been asked by Newton to join him in Olney. Though he did not move there, he often did an exchange with Newton when the latter needed to be in London. Both Polly and John Newton nominated Foster to read their funeral services. Foster was one of the four founding members of the Eclectic Society. Memoir in The Christian Guardian and Church of England Magazine, 1 September 1814, pp293-295.
John Thornton (1720-1790), Newton’s sponsor while at Olney, uncle of William Wilberforce and a Governor of the Bank of England, was a generous philanthropist. The Gentleman’s Magazine declared him to have been the greatest philanthropist in all Europe, ‘except for Mr Hope of Amsterdam’.
5 An edited version of Johnson’s letter to John Thornton, undated, probably July 1790, is in HRNSW vol 1 Part 2, pp386-389, describing the terrible conditions of the convicts arriving in the 2nd Fleet. A witness of Johnsons’ selfless assistance for them recorded: ‘I believe few of the sick would recover if it was not for the kindness of the Rev Mr Johnson, whose assistance out of his own stores makes him the physician both of soul and body.’
6 Johnson informed his friend Henry Flicker of Portsmouth that they had chosen an aborigine name for their little girl: ‘Milbah Maria’. See letter dated 9 April 1790 to Henry Fricker digitised here.
7 Early buildings, suitable only for temporary shelter, were constructed from the Cabbage Tree Palm (Livistona Australis).
8 That this prayer was answered see Johnson’s letter to Henry Fricker dated  10 August  1797: ‘Since the arrival of Governor Hunter, which is near two years, my situation has been much more comfortable than for some time before.’ Digistised here.
9 Parody on Milton’s Paradise Lost: ‘Dwells in all Heaven charity so dear?’
10 William Dawes (1762-1836), an officer of the Royal Marines, volunteered for the First Fleet. A talented astronomer, engineer and linguist, he was subsequently Governor in Sierra Leone and then supported slave children in Antigua. See here for his digitised notebooks on the Aboriginal language in Australia.
11 2 Peter 2:5,6  And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
12 Genesis 13:10,11 And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.
13 Caldwell was a dissenter preaching in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. Newton had written to Charles Grant on 10 May 1792: 'Mr Caldwell is a man of exemplary and established character, a solid, judicious, useful and powerful preacher. But he understands neither Latin nor Greek, nor Irish nor Welsh. Why the two former languages, should be more indispensably necessary, than the two latter, to a man who is to preach in plain English, to a plain people, I cannot tell. But sic visi superiorers. If I were a Bishop I should be glad to draw such men into the church... Such a man, if not learned enough for our church, would, I believe, bid fair just as he is, to be prized and useful in Canada, or Nova Scotia.' Newton appealed to Grant: 'If you think proper, I would request you to mention it to Mr Wilberforce, when you have opportunity.'
14 'New Holland', though it originally referred to the western and north coast of Australia, was replaced later by the more general reference 'Australia'.
15 William Dawe (cf Endnote [10]) arrived with the First Fleet on the Sirius, to establish an observatory (on Point Maskelyne, now known as Dawes Point). He fell out with Governor Phillip and was sent home to Portsmouth in December 1791. Zacharay Macaulay described him as 'one of the excellent of the earth'. Dawes served three terms as Governor of Sierra Leone.
16 This is the last line of John Milton's Sonnet 19: When I Consider How my Light is Spent.
17 An Address to the Inhabitants of the Colonies established in New South Wales and Norfolk Island. By the Reverend Richard Johnson, A.B., Chaplain to the Colonies, London, 1794. It can be downlaoded from here.
18 Regrettably the new Governor, Lieutenant-Governor Francis Grose (1758–1814), proved a determined opponent of Johnson. See Lambeth Palace Library, Moore 1, ff.9-14; 15-32; and 33-67.
19 Samuel Marsden (1765-1838), a fellow graduate of Johnson's from Magdalene College (to which he had been sponsored by the Elland Society), sailed in the William, leaving London on 1 July 1793, arriving at Port Jackson on the 10 March 1794.
20 Johnson was appointed a magistrate by Governor Phillips. Governor Grose withdrew this post from him. It was re-instated by Governor John Hunter.
21 This reference to being at Southampton would have revived memories for Johnson, for it was while Newton was staying with Walter Taylor at Portswood Green, Southampton, during his summer holidays that he used to spend a few days with Charles Etty at Priestlands, near Boldre, Johnson’s former curacy.
22 Ambrose Martin (c. 1744-1826) was on many Christian committees, e.g. the Society for the Relief of Poor Pious Clergy, the British & Foreign Bible Society.
23 John Hunter (1737–1821), almost entered the ministry, but instead followed his father to sea, becoming a highly experienced seaman. He was captain of the Sirius in the First Fleet, returning to England in 1792. Though commissioned as Governor in February 1794, due to sail the next month, he did not sail until February 1795, arriving in Port Jackson on 7 September 1795.
24 Acts 28:3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
25 See Lambeth Palace Library, Moore 1, ff. 9-14 Johnson’s letter to  ‘Your Lordship’ (assumed to be  Archbishop Moore), dated 8 May 1793 for hardships and morale, and Moore 1, ff.15-32, dated 16 April 1794, which includes the difficulties Johnson experienced under Lieut-Governor Grose.
26 Ambrose Serle (1742–1812), former under-secretary to Lord Dartmouth, Secretary to Lord Howe during the American War of Independence (his journal was used as the basis for the film Liberty), became a Commissioner for the Transport Office. Newton used to stay with him at his home in Heckfield en route to Reading and Southampton. Serle was the author of The Christian Remembrancer and other books, and wrote several hymns. His son by the same name became a clergyman.
27 See Johnson's letter to Mr Secretary Dundas, 14 November 1794, HRSSW Vol 2 pp. 271-2
28 Major G was Francis Grose, the departed Lieut-Governor, who had been so troublesome to Johnson. His rank in the army was Major.
29 Henry Stokes (1748-1829), broker of Brunswick Row, was an early member of the Society for the Relief of Poor Pious Clergy. John Russell painted his portrait.
Printed Sources:
Bladen, F. M. and Britton, Alexander. and Cook, James.  Historical records of New South Wales  Government Printer Sydney 1892  (with special thanks to the National Library of Australia, where you can find a wealth of mss and images on the First Fleet)
James Bonwick, Australia's First Preacher. The Reverend Richard Johnson, First Chaplain of New South Wales (London: Sampson, Low, Marston & Co, 1898)

Manuscript Sources:
Bodleian Library, MS Wilberforce c49
Church Mission Society

Princeton University: CO192
KJV reproduced by permission of Cambridge University Press, the Crown’s patentee in the UK


Marylynn Rouse, 21/01/2019